Tender Touches: Cornish’s BFA Expo 19

Here’s are some thoughts from my favorite pieces at the Cornish College of the Art’s BFA Art and Design Expo 2019:

# “You Never Left”

A sense of tender vulnerability cuts across many of the works in this show; a good number express this vulnerability through the elevation of domestic space, familial memory and quotidian craft.

Here is one example: @stupidstinky’s sculptures and embroidered works are an invitation into a gentle and generous intimacy that feels far from self-indulgent. The works approach the universality of good storytelling, and the sheer amount of artful “clutter” on display is a delight.

# “About The Chef”

Sometimes the audacity of authentic self-expression—to be true to one’s legitimately quirky lens on this world—is a kind of brave vulnerability in and of itself, especially in the halls of the art academy; @kimberlyh_art’s whimsical food sculptures evoke that feeling in me.

I am glad these objects exist—for the enthusiastic celebration of food culture, for the joyful wordplay and pareidolia, and for the quiet subversion of art-making expectations and tropes. Delish!

# “I am an object person.”

“To create something does not mean to see through to its depths; we do not drain our children to the dregs by begetting them, but set them loose in the world like wild dogs, beyond our control and often beyond our knowledge.”

(Graham Harman, Towards Speculative Realism: 147)

Another stunning example of works exploring the domestic and quotidian through a contemplative and even loving gaze is @quinlyn_art’s ‘Half Bath’.

No gimmicks, no detached détournement—just faithful and laborious appreciation; a making-visible. I found it to be a pinch in the arm too; a reminder to take our object-oriented lives more seriously.

# “Show Up All The Way”

As the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group makes its way into the Mediterranean to send yet another “clear and unmistakable message” to the region, @adam_makkar’s video installation provokes even more urgency than a politically-charged piece might under “normal” (?) circumstances.

Far from being an exercise in early ‘00s nostalgia, this work reminds us that today’s horrors du jour are but spinoffs in the same, mad “marvel” universe; the same claps of manufactured consent, the same drums of war we heard on television as kids.

I don’t know if I ever saw this footage back in the day, but I still remember that distinct sense of indignation watching Colin Powell tell blatant lies at the United Nations—a sense so absolute and certain in ways that only a child can be.

“I got my propaganda, I got revisionism / I got my violence in hi-def ultra-realism.” (Nine Inch Nails, Survivalism)

# “The Break That Happens”

“No true secrets are lurking in the landscape, but only undisclosed evidence, waiting for us. No true chaos is in the urban scene, but only patterns and clues waiting to be organized.”

(Grady Clay, Close-Up: How To Read The American City)

I’ve been a fan of @t.r.tomanicek’s practice since her Instagram takeover on @art_cornish. Her photocollages seem to evoke all the contradictions of the built environment: progress as endless repair, the placelessness of mobile vernaculars, private space as a performance of civic inattention…

They feel very #Seattle, but blink once and they’ll feel pretty #Beirut as well; blink again, and you’ll start seeing a montage of all cities you may have known…

“The true language of cities deals with relationships rather than free-standing objects.” (ibid)

# “Seeing precedes looking.”

Alva Noë contrasts everyday looking, or “seeing in the wild,” with the aesthetic sense that pictures afford:

“We drive, we tie our shoes, we make dinner and then eat it. And we use our eyes and our other senses when we do all this. Wild seeing is spontaneous and engaged; it is direct and involved. Wild seeing is acting in concert with the stuff around us. Aesthetic seeing, in contrast, is something more like the entertainment of thoughts about what one is looking at.”

(Strange Tools, p. 52).

Binaries like these will make many bristle at the hints of art school snobbery implied, but Noë’s point, in the final instance, is not to drive an elitist wedge between specialist appreciation and the pedestrian gaze, but rather, to show how pictures and picture-making ‘loop back’—how visual arts reorganize the way we see the world; anyone who has spent any significant time on Instagram will know this strange sensation from experience.

These works by @kit.grams feel like a working out of this argument, in picture form. Not only are her collages a visual treat of color, contrast and connection, but they are also postcards of a proposition to take home; a prompt to engage in “the entertainment of thoughts” at the traffic light, at the dinner table, with the stuff around us.

Kit’s curatorial practice was also on display in a collection of early works by BFA peers, in a space that reflected on a day in the life of art school formation.

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